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bacon David Chang Japanese Momofuku

Bacon Agedashi Tofu

David Chang will be the first to admit that both he and his Momofuku restaurants (Noodle Bar, Ssam, Ko) are overhyped and overexposed. The release of the Momofuku cookbook last month isn’t helping matters much since he’s making the rounds promoting the book around the country, and he’s actually doing book signings in the Bay Area through the weekend. I received the Momofuku cookbook a few days after Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, and both books are the only things I’ve been reading since—aside from the Internet, of course. :)

(See EatMeDaily.com for great reviews of both books: Momofuku | Ad Hoc at Home)

Bacon Agedashi TofuBacon Agedashi Tofu, inspired by the Momofuku cookbook.

The first recipe in the Momofuku book that really got my attention was the bacon dashi. In the book, Chang says that when Noodle Bar first opened, he had a hard time finding good katsuobushi (smoked bonito) to make traditional dashi, the seaweed and fish broth that’s the foundation of Japanese cuisine. Chang started looking at other options to replicate the katsuoboshi’s smoky flavor, and good ol’ American bacon was the natural choice. Making the bacon dashi is pretty easy, and the final product looks and tastes like regular dashi but with a hint of smoky bacon flavor. It can be used in any application that calls for a regular dashi, and the first thing I thought of was one of my favorite dishes, agedashi tofu (fried tofu in broth).

For the broth, a.k.a. tentsuyu, I started by warming one cup of bacon dashi in a small sauce pan and added about three tablespoons each of shoyu (soy sauce) and mirin (sweetened rice wine). I did this to taste, but it should be salty and smoky with a hint of sweetness.

Butterfly a block of firm tofu and separate the two halves. Cut the tofu into rectangles and dry them for about 10 minutes on paper towels. Gently dredge the dried tofu in potato starch or cornstarch and fry them in 350F oil until they’re light golden brown. In a separate pan, fry up some finely chopped bacon until crispy. Chop up a stalk or two of green onions and grate some brown onions. Normally, you’d finish off agedashi tofu with grated daikon, but I didn’t have any on hand. Using onions did keep the dish a bit more on the American side and provided a similar texture to what grated daikon would have provided.

To serve, place three pieces of fried tofu in small bowl. Ladle enough sauce into the bowl so that half of the tofu is still exposed. Top with grated onion, chopped green onion and crispy bacon.

Categories
Japanese reviews Southern California

Maru

We were in town to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and I was eager to find a place in Santa Clarita that was worthy of our attention so we didn’t have to drive out to LA for a nice meal. I found Maru after reading several glowing reviews on Yelp, where some reviewers admit to driving all the way to Valencia from all over the Southland just to eat there. People driving to Valencia just to eat? Now I had to see if it really lived up to the hype.

Maru is not your typical Japanese restaurant because in addition to a fairly standard Japanese menu, they also feature a seasonal Market Menu that features “modern California cuisine” and includes dishes like seared foie gras, crispy duck risotto, USDA Prime steaks, and other dishes you’d find at a typical upscale restaurant. Fresh fish is flown in daily from Japan, the restaurant is committed to using organic, free-range products, and all the vegetables are hand picked by chef/owner Jason Park at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets. You could argue that Maru serves the freshest food in Santa Clarita, but having a great meal there depends entirely on which menu you choose.

We decided to pick dishes from both menus so we could try as many of the inventive dishes as possible, as well as see how Maru handles some of the basics. For starters, we ordered their much-heralded crispy duck risotto and agedashi tofu. Creamy duck risotto was shaped like a puck and then seared to make it crispy and was an excellent appetizer. Unfortunately, the agedashi tofu we ordered was seriously lacking. The tofu wasn’t fried very well, and it was served only in a ponzu-flavored dashi. There were no bonito flakes or grated daikon to be found, so it felt incomplete and worst of all…boring. (The dashi was good though.)

Crispy Duck RisottoCrispy Duck Risotto

(Note: I read several reports that Maru frowns up on people taking pictures of the food (allegedly because the chef is paranoid about someone stealing his ideas) so I broke out my spy camera—er, iPhone—to get these pictures.)

Categories
beef Japanese reviews

Yoshinoya

My dad got me hooked on Yoshinoya’s Beef Bowls when I was a kid in SoCal. We didn’t have any near our house, but some nights, my dad would come home from work with Beef Bowls in hand. I remember loving them so much that I would call him at work and beg him to bring some home for dinner.

In college, the Filipino club at CSUN was notorious for taking stacks of student newspapers and stripping them of every last Yoshinoya 2-for-1 coupon, and a steady stream of hungry Filipino Matadors would head down Reseda Blvd to get their Beef Bowl fix between classes.

Beef BowlThese days, Yoshinoya isn’t on my radar, mainly because they’re few and far between in the Bay Area, but when we ended up here the other night, I was a happy man. The Beef Bowl hasn’t changed a bit, it’s exactly the way I remember them, especially the rice that has soaked up some of the meat juices and is complemented with a bit of red pickled ginger. It’s a flavor that’s unique to Yoshinoya, and i love it.

To be honest, though, I wouldn’t get anything else at Yoshinoya except for the Beef Bowls. The menu is now unnecessarily complicated by combo meals, bento boxes, and desserts sealed in plastic. The chicken is decent, but the veggies have been gross for as long as I can remember. The combo meals come with a choice of salad (green, mac or potato) or dessert (cheesecake, chocolate, strawberry shortcake, flan….WTF?). My wife wanted to try a piece of shrimp tempura, just to see what they do with it, and it had been refried and smelled of old oil.

Honestly, this place deserves 3 stars…so why the high rating? Sometimes the reasons why you like a place have more to do with the memories than the actual food. A Beef Bowl will always remind me of a childhood epiphany that pointed me in the direction of Yoshinoya’s fatty, thinly sliced steamed beef served over rice in a styrofoam bowl. There’s a special joy that I get when eating a Beef Bowl that you might not relate to if you’ve just discovered Yoshinoya (like my wife). But even she concedes that the Beef Bowls are worth a trip back.

INFORMATION
Yoshinoya
1790 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050
408.260.0210 map
Web site

Categories
Japanese Northern California reviews

Delica rf-1

Delica rf-1 is an interesting experiment in Japanese deli food. It’s high-end (i.e. expensive), they use fresh ingredients and even utilize some of the vendors that reside in the Ferry Building (Cowgirl Creamery and Prather Meat Company). I was lucky enough to end up here with my wife and sister in law, so we were able to get a pretty good sampling of food between the three of us. $47 later, here’s how things broke down.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157602217696219″]

For all their talk about fresh, healthy and balanced meals, Delica’s strength is definitely in their fried foods. The Potato Croquette was really nice, but the Crab Cream Croquette is even better. Tonkatsu was smaller and bite sized since it’s made with pork tenderloin, a smaller, leaner cut of meat that benefits from being fried in panko. They’re all perfectly fried, not greasy and still crispy after sitting in the display case for awhile.

We also tried both curries — Mushroom and Ground Chicken Curry and Beef Curry served with hot steamed rice — and they were good, but they also weren’t anything special either, although the beef curry featured some perfectly cooked Prather Ranch Meat.

But the real star at Delica is the Roast Beef Sushi. A rare piece of Meyer Ranch meat on top of sushi rice and topped with baby arugula, shallots and julienned radish. It not only looked beautiful, it was absolutely delicious. And to think it was almost an afterthought because it was in a separate box from the rest of the food and we were all pretty full by the time we ate them.

We also ordered the Spinach and Sesame Salad (Goma-ae), which was very bland, but my sister in law said that that’s what it’s supposed to taste like. The Sweet & Spicy Chicken was good but nothing mind blowing, as was the Chicken Dumpling with sweet chili sauce.

I really wanted to try the Tofu Steak with Miso Sauce and Kakiage Tempura (mixture of shredded vegetables, white shrimp in a tempura batter), but we already had too much food, but I think the next time I go, I’m just going to get three orders of roast beef sushi and call it a day.

INFORMATION
Delica rf-1
1 Ferry Building, Shop 45
San Francisco, CA 94111 map
415.834.0344
Web site

Categories
Best of Inuyaki David Chang Japanese Korean Momofuku New York noodles pork reviews

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I had been on a quest to find the perfect bowl of ramen in the San Francisco Bay Area for awhile, but I think I’ve found perfection at Momofuku. It was seriously the best bowl of noodles I’ve ever had.

This is not traditional ramen, but I don’t care. Instead of slices of chashu (roast pork), Momofuku’s ramen features an incredibly delicious helping of shredded Berkshire Pork. The broth is incredibly porky (exactly what I’ve been looking for) and contains peas and a poached egg (instead of hard boiled), which helps thicken the broth and give it some more flavor. There are no bean sprouts in this ramen either, but I don’t care for them anyway, so that wasn’t a big deal.

We started with an appetizer of Roasted Rice Cakes, which were served with a roasted onion/spicy chili sauce. This looked like a fusion version of the Korean duk bok kee, and it was a delicious way to start the meal.


Roasted Rice Cakes

I ordered the Momofuku Ramen, which also contained pork belly, a welcome surprise. I wanted to order an appetizer of fried pork belly, but that was vetoed by my wife (probably for the better considering how much we’ve been eating this trip). My wife ordered the special pork neck ramen, which featured braised neck meat and a thicker, flat Chinese noodle. My friend had the standard pork ramen, which was like mine but sans pork belly.


Momofuku Ramen

Momofuku is a bit overpriced for a bowl of ramen, but considering the quality of the ingredients and how good it is, I’m not complaining. And as I raised the bowl to my lips to finish off the last of the broth, the chorus for “The Search is Over” by Survivor starting playing in my head:


I was looking for ramen
Looking for the best
I went to New York
Unsure of what I’d find
Now I look into my bowl
The broth is gone forever
The search is over
Momo’s the best one in my mind…

INFORMATION
Momofuku Noodle Bar
163 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10003 map
212.475.7899
Web site

Categories
dessert Japanese New York reviews

Kyotofu

In the past, I haven’t been a fan of Japanese desserts because I always found them to be bland. What I’m realizing lately is that the blandness is actually subtlety, and subtlety is a good thing. Kyotofu offers up small, light and delectable tofu-based desserts and appetizers. The ambience is very modern, and the presentation of each dish was beautiful.

We started with the tofu and chicken tsukune meatballs. The combo of tofu and chicken sounds a bit odd, but the tofu made the meatballs soft and smooth, and they were delicious.


Tofu and Chicken Tsukune Meatballs

The otsumami, the chef’s selection of appetizers was next. Tonight’s selection was steamed veggies, a tofu quiche, namasu (pickled daikon/carrot salad), and steamed tofu. The standouts here were the tofu quiche and the namasu. I seriously could’ve eaten a bowl of the namasu.


Otsumami - Chef's Selection

The four-course Kyotofu dessert KAISEKI tasting menu featured their signature sweet tofu topped with Japanese black sugar syrup and a piece of dried apricot, which was creamy like panna cotta (excellent); ginger-infused japanese rice okayu, a rice pudding with sour cherries, kuromitsu whipped cream and ginger candy (excellent), a creamy toasted walnut tahitian vanilla parfait (good), and a tofu-based warm chocolate cake that was rich and light and so good my wife ate most of it. There was also a serving of kinako cream, which was like peanut butter smeared on the plate (very good).

KAISEKI tasting menu

My wife ordered the ichigo strawberry anmitsu, which was a lot like Japanese halo-halo. It had gelatin, strawberry mochi bits, strawberries and azuki (red bean) sauce and a quarter-sized dorayaki pancake. This was so refreshing, especially after all of our other food.

Next up were two miniature cookies…kuro goma (black sesame) and an okara cookie dipped in green tea frosting. I think overall, food with black sesame looks cool, but the flavor is just okay, and that’s how I feel about the kuro goma cookie. Okara is a high-fiber byproduct of tofu or soymilk and is used as the base for the cookie. I didn’t think you could really taste it, but the green tea “frosting” was really nice.

As a palate cleanser, they brought us lychee jelly cubes to end our meal.

Now this might sound like a lot of food, but the portions are really, really small. Considering all the eating we had done throughout the day, it was actually a perfect place to end day one of our NY vacation/eating excursion.

INFORMATION
Kyotofu
705 9th Ave
(between 48th St & 49th St)
New York, NY 10019
212.974.6012
Web site